It's the end of the world for Marvel's Ultimate universe, but it's a beginning, too.
Fourteen years after its creation by Marvel Entertainment as a modern, grittier and contemporary take on Marvel's characters, the publisher is pushing forward with new efforts to reinvigorate its universe where the dead remain so and disaster, discord and — ultimately — redemption and rebirth are among the events that keep readers coming back issue after issue.
What it means for characters like Miles Morales; members of the FF (Future Foundation, not Fantastic Four); and the All-New Ultimates, including the new Black Widow (she used to be Spider-Woman), Kitty Pryde, Bombshell and Cloak and Dagger, will unfold beginning in April as the events of the soon-to-end "Cataclysm" miniseries runs its course.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis is tight-lipped about the end but said this week that it ends with great cost.
"They're able to win the day, but at great sacrifice, a sacrifice that is so huge that it changes the entire landscape," said Bendis. "It creates a place that demands a fresh start from everyone who surveys it."
The move is part of Marvel Entertainment's relaunching of its Ultimate universe that starts in April under the banner Ultimate Marvel NOW!
Editor-in-chief Axel Alonso called it the opportunity to tear down the existing universe to make it better.
"Once again, we're destroying something and building something new, but there's an end game in sight," he said of the move, noting that Marvel's so-called Ultimate universe has always been noted by readers, writers and artists and editors for its "elasticity" and experimentation.
"We created the line to take chances," he said.
"Dead is dead," he said, so don't expect any miraculous resurrections. "The long and short of it is this: The Ultimate (universe) benefits from a good, old kick in the butt."
It's also a chance for other characters to take larger roles in place of long-standing ones.
"If you've been following Brian Bendis and David Marquez's 'Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, you know that Miles Morales, has had to grow up fast," said editor Mark Paniccia. "In 'All-New Ultimates,' we'll see this eclectic group of super-powered teens step up, live fast and maybe even die hard" in the new series written by Michel Fiffe and drawn by Amilcar Pinna.
Fiffe said he hopes to "introduce many more enemies and allies to their world. The Ultimate universe is relatively young, which yields more opportunities for real change, real dangers and dramatic avenues left unexplored in superhero comics."
Bendis said Morales, who took up the Spider-Man mantle after the death of Peter Parker, is among those in new territory.
"You can look at this as kind of his Bar Mitzvah of sorts and, now, he has to take the reins of Spider-Man under the new world he finds himself in," he said of the upcoming "Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man" series drawn by Marquez.
"His entire life as a human being has changed."
For others, the change is going to be rapid, and unexpected, said Joshua Hale Fialkov, writer of "Ultimate FF," a team book drawn by Mario Guevara focusing on several core members that make up the Future Foundation.
"It's a team of geniuses, four of the smartest people in the Ultimate universe," he said, of the core that includes Sue Storm and Tony Stark, among others. "And we're missing one, and that one happens to be a psychopath."
Fialkov called the titles an opportunity for Marvel and readers.
"We have a pretty big responsibility with this universe. No. 1., it has been a gateway for people back into films and we want to be innovative, doing things different with these characters that you cannot get anywhere else.
"We look at the opportunity 'Cataclysm' gave us to reset the board," he said, "and do some really cool stuff with the characters."
Moore reported from Philadelphia. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/mattmooreap